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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

For some odd reason, I found myself at Rush Limbaugh’s site, hoping to hear him say something idiotic. Turns out it costs $59.99 a year to listen to Rush online. (Makes a great gift for Dads!) Ogle the vanity portrait Rush has on every page.


Look at this guy. He looks more like an evil banker than a talk show host. The black suit and diabolical grin, the slicked back hair, the comfortable tan, the cigar poking out of his stubs. I think it's that cigar that really cements the image. Is Rush saying that he's a cigar aficionado, or is he saying that he's rich and powerful and better than you? You pick.

So did you know Jada Pinkett Smith is in a metal band? She is. Did you know that metal band is going to be playing Ozzfest this summer? It is.

The big news today is Deep Throat's identity, confirmed after 30 years. It's somewhat a letdown, and some people are still mad, but Deep Throat exposed Nixonian corruption in the midst of the Watergate cover-up, a good thing for our republic. He's also a perfect example of when an anonymous source can be useful. Take that, Newsweek bashers.

On a short note, I just got back from a long weekend in Vegas. I'm still exhausted and sluggishly trying to get back into the routine. Vegas is great, if you have the money to spend and if you're there for a few nights max. Once you stay there too long, it becomes an arduous task wandering amidst the casinos, half drunk and bone tired. I wish I could say it was a wonderful trip, but there was a lot of drama, a lot of bitching and moaning (some of it mine), and some devastating turns of events. But I did see the kid from Big, now all grown up in Honey, at the Palms, trying to remain anonymous as he waited for a cab. Only a movie geek like me would recognize him, and no one believes me. But it was him dammit!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been working on this character named Max Beatty. Max will be starring in a series of mystery novels that will hopefully one be on bookshelves everywhere. Of course, I have to write the things, and in order to do that I need to figure out who Max is, not just this vague idea I have of him. So I've been writing these little vignettes, trying to get a handle on Max and his voice. The following is one of those attempts.

*


“I love Anthrax.”

I wasn’t sure of what I heard so I shook my head and spat out
a dumbfounded “What?”

The waitress went red in the face and pointed at the sharp
angular writing on my shirt. Beneath that, there was a creepy old man in a bolo
tie standing in a crowd of blank faces. The old man was tipping a black hat and
waving. It was the cover art from the Among the Living album.

“Anthrax,” she read. “You know, the band.”

I laughed, although I could tell from the look on the
waitress’s face that she wasn’t in on the joke. “Sorry, I wasn’t sure what you
meant,” I sputtered. “I like Anthrax too.”

“Among the Living. That’s a great album.”

I had to be honest. “I liked Persistence of Time better,” I
said.

“The last album with Joey,” the waitress said mournfully. She
didn’t look like a metal girl, certainly not one who would like Anthrax. I
figured Bon Jovi or Poison was about as metal as most girls get.

I gave her my order and sent her on her way.

I poured cream and lots of sugar into my coffee and left it
to cool at arm’s reach. I spread out the latest editon of the Post in front of
me and scanned the headlines for something interesting. A scandal at CU, an
apartment fire killing one and leaving dozens homeless, troubles at DIA, the
same old stuff. I turned to the sports. The Broncos had a decent record but they
were a game down to the Chargers in the hunt for the AFC West. It was all going
to come down to Sunday in San Diego. Whoever won that game had the division
title pretty well wrapped up.

“Heya, Max.”

The voice startled me and I looked up.

“Hey, Bertrand.”

I didn’t see him come in or sit down, but there he was in
front of me, all six feet four of him stuffed into a grand purple suit, complete
with kerchief and cane. Bertrand used to be a defensive end in college, and had
a short-lived career in semi-pro football, but the truth was he wasn’t a very
good defensive end. He was still tenacious, though, and still had a drive deep
within, which served him well in the business world. He owned about a dozen
small businesses, all with varying degrees of success, and sometimes he hired me
for one.

“Hope I didn’t hold ya up too much,” Bertrand said as he sat
down. His fade was fresh and his mustache was groomed so well it looked painted
on. Delays at the barber shop, maybe? “I’m always late. You know that.”

I folded the sports page. “That’s why I brought the paper.”

Bertrand’s gold teeth gleamed as he smiled. “You order
already?”

“Yep.”

“That don’t matter. I’m not hungry anyway. I’ll pay the tab
though, don’t worry about that now.”

“Much appreciated.”

He showed me his gold teeth again in a wide grin. “So what
you doing, Max? Still shaking down skips? Investigating insurance? Tracking down
hot checks?”

“All of the above, and more,” I said. “Are you in need of my
services?”

The grin disappeared and Bertrand went into business mode.
The gold teeth disappeared, the cane was placed to the side. His hands folded
together and he leaned forward. “If you ain’t too busy.”

“I’m sure I can arrange something. What do you need?”

“Confidence,” he said, enunciating the word carefully as if
he had been studying it. “Discretion. Secrecy. I need a bird that don’t sing,
Max. Max, I need you. I know how you operate, man. I trust you. It don’t matter
what you cost, as long as it ain’t in the millions. I have a client that will
pay. They will pay.” He chuckled for a bit and I thought I heard a little
childish glee somewhere in there.

“Now that the ass kissing is over, maybe you’d like to tell
me what kind of job it is.”

“Surveillance.”

“Oh, surveillance? I got just the man for ya, because I don’t
do surveillance.”

“Hold up. Not that kind of surveillance.”

“What kind of surveillance? Sitting in a car for a few days
outside someone’s apartment, eating donuts?”

“Alright, listen. You don’t gotta do none of that. I just
want you to follow someone.” Clever. He went from surveillance to stalking.

“I don’t do that either,” I said.

Bertrand huffed, leaned back in his seat, leaned forward,
rubbed his hands nervously. “Max, hear me out, man.”

“I’m listening.”

He wiped a brown hand over his forehead and sighed. “My wife
left me,” he said. “She took the kids. I don’t know where they are. She’s still
working, I know that much. I checked with her folks. They don’t know nothing.
Her friends, her cousins. None of them know nothing, least nothing they’re
telling me.”

The food came, which was a good thing, because if I didn’t
have something to stuff in my mouth I probably would have lost it. Bertrand
Barry, voted Entrepreneur of the Year 1998 by the AABC, that’s the
African-American Business Council for those who aren’t hip enough to say Double
Ay-Bee-Cee, Bertrand Barry, a man who over the last ten years I called my
friend, was now sitting before me, head bowed, eyes heavy, asking me if I could
find his wife, locate his children. It was surreal, and ridiculous.

“How much you gonna pay?” I asked between bites of my burger.

“How much you think it’s gonna cost?”

“I guess I’m not sure what you want me to do.”

“Look, all I want you to do is find her. She had to go
somewhere. She’s got a job, so I know she’s still in this city at least. You can
just follow her from her job and see where she goes. That’s all I want to know.
Where she went, where she took my kids.”

It sounded easy enough, but still I didn’t like it. This
wasn’t just some client off the street who needs a little invisible help from a
resourceful fellow like me. This was my friend, this was his personal life.

“Look, I know a guy. I won’t take anything on top of his fee.
You can deal with me or you can deal with him if you want. With him, you might
be able to talk something under the table. He just does this kind of thing part
time. But with me, it’s got to be legal. Signed contract, affidavits. I’ve got a
payroll now.”

Bertrand nodded. His gold teeth were nowhere to be seen. He
had picked the cane up and started squeezing it with his thick fingers to
relieve tension. “She works at Krystal Ball Gowns. In Littleton. It’s only part
time, mostly on weekends, and the schedule always changes. Whenever I call, she
ain’t there so I don’t know what’s going on.”

I scribbled the particulars in the margins of the sports
page. “How do you spell her first name?” Great cover, because I had forgotten
it.

“M-O-N-I-Q-U-E. Monique. She could be using her maiden name,
Chalk, like what you use in school. Kids names is James and Jasmine. James is
ten, Jasmine seventeen. I got her license plate, I got her bank account
information. I got anything you need. Just let me know.”

I nodded. There would be another time to discuss the details
back at the office.

“I just wanna know where she is,” Bertrand said. His tone
made me wonder if I would be able to tell him if I found out.

“When’d she leave, Bertrand?”

“Last weekend. She went to her mother’s. We had a fight.”

“A fight?”

“She got mad, took the kids and left. That’s all. It wasn’t
really a fight. An argument. It was an argument.”

“A pretty serious one if she left. Did she feel threatened?
Was she scared?”

Bertrand rose up, his eyes opening wide. The corners of his
mouth dropped and he blurted, “How the hell am I supposed to know, man? I’m not
her.”

“Alright, fair enough. But why did she leave? That’s pretty
severe.”

“I been trying to figure that out. You gonna help or not?”

“Yeah.” I said. “I’ll help.”